Guide to the different materials and installation types of bathtubs
Now that you have gathered all the relevant measurements (refer to the previous chapter if you are unsure if your measurements are accurate), you can move on to further specify and shortlist your dream bathtub.
This chapter will guide you on the different kinds of bathtub that are available and which models are best suited for which situation. This will help you to decide on which bathtub is best for you depending on your bathroom layout and usage requirements.
Bathtubs are sgemented based on:
- Fibreglass Reinforced Plastic
- Cast Iron
- Cast Polymer
First you need to consider the installation type for your bathtub. Most smaller bathroom opt for a Drop-In or Alcove bathtubs, whereas larger bathrooms are able to accommodate Standalone bathtubs. The installation type also affects the additional construction work that you need to do to install your bathtub.
As its name suggests, these are standalone bathtubs that do not require any installation between walls. Its base is constructed to hold the pressure from every inch of the tub. The type of base may range from clawfoot to bowl-shaped.
These bathtubs are mainly for large bathrooms with enough space to spare. It is an excellent choice if you intend for your bathtub to act as tha centerpiece and main feature of your bathroom design concept.
Single-ended tubs usually are designed to have one rounded end sloped down for the user to rest upon, while the other side is meant for the drainage and faucet.
Double-ended tubs are fashioned to have two rounded ends also sloped down, so that the user can choose to rest on either of the sides. Given the bathtub’s structure, if it is big enough, it will be able to accommodate two users. This also means that the drainage will be located in the middle of the bathtub, and the faucet would have to be installed in the middle, or with a separate standalone faucet.
These vintage-style bathtubs have been around since the 1800s and have taken a more modern twist in today’s age. The different types include single-ended, double-ended, single-slipper, double-slipper.
- Single Slipper
For Single Slipper bathtubs one side of the bathtub, the side which the user leans against, is higher than the other side. It is sloped to offer head, neck, and back support. Slipper tub were introduced during the Victorian era of the late 19th century. (These bathtubs are also available bowl-shaped)
- Double Slipper
Double-slipper tubs on the other hand, allow a user or two, to rest on both sides and are reclining in nature. The drainage and faucet will have to be positioned for this reason. (These bathtubs are also available bowl-shaped)
Instead of a clawfoot base, Skirted Bathtubs are designed to rest on a plinth. These bathtubs also come in the varying single-ended, single-slipper, double-ended, double-slipper designs.
This type of tub structure is the smallest for a standalone bathtub, which enables it to fit into small spaces. To compensate for a deeper soaking experience, the bathtub is also taller in structure and includes a bathtub seat, allowing the user to submerge in the water all the way up till their shoulders.
Drop-in Tubs generally do not have any finished sides. Instead, they represent only what the core of a bathtub is, a tub frame. The frame is then dropped into an existing skeleton, that requires beforehand installation. The drop-in bathtub frame itself is generally cheaper than standalone bathubs, however this method can be more complicated and costly depending on what type of construction you build around the frame. Nonetheless, if you want your bathtub to blend perfectly with your bathroom, you can give this technique a go.
Another type of drop-in tub would be an undermounts, which are drop-in tubs that specifically cater to floor-level installation.The flooring (tiles, cement etc) hides the lips of the bathtub.
One of more common types of bathtub installation involve the tubs to be installed against three walls (3-wall alcove), these three sides are hollow, leaving only the fourth side already constructed. This installation method is rather popular, as it is the most affordable choice, and most convenient if the bathtub needs to be replaced. However, bathtub owners now have the option to have their alcove tubs installed against one or two walls only, thus giving off a cleaner aesthetic.
The alcove tub is also suitable for persons who need help climbing in and out of the tub, as a rail or safety bar can be installed to assist the user. (ADA compliant)
The corner-tub installation is a preferred way to save a lot of space for bathrooms with small spaces. It is usually structured to be three-sided, two of which are installed against a wall, and the last one done up, but left exposed. Corner Bathtubs usually come in quadrant shapes, or small squarish proportions, which is favourable for a dual bath experience.
Bathtubs made from Acrylic are quite common due to the material’s versatility and durability, stemming from their non- porous aspects. They come in a large variety and are inexpensive, but are slightly costlier than fibreglass. Because the bathtub is made from vacuum-formed acrylic sheets, reinforced with fibreglass, they are lightweight and can fit in apartment units such as HDB and Condominiums. Take care however, if abrasive cleaners are used, the surface is prone to scratches.
FRP – Fibreglass Reinforced Plastic
Fibreglass is made from polyester resin, fibreglass reinforcement and layers of surface coating. They are generally affordable and less expensive than Acrylic, however are also less durable. They are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to clean and maintain. This material is a great choice for shower-tub combinations. Unfortunately, it is not as durable as other materials given that it is porous in nature, it absorbs water regularly its surface tends to crack and scratch, whilst its colour and finish may fade overtime. The material may have a tendency to ‘flex, hence causing it to warp and feel unstable.
Cast-Iron (Enamelled Cast-Iron)
Enamelled Cast Iron (iron moulded with porcelain enamel) or Cast Iron, are classic bathtub materials, given its durability and excellent heat retention. Its thick enamel is highly resistant to chipping and scratching, thus allowing it to be resurfaced time and again. It is shock-resistant and retains heat fairly well. However, because this material so heavy, in addition to water weight and the user’s body weight, additional structural and floor reinforcements are required to hold it up.
Steel (Enamelled Steel)
Steel is similar to Cast Iron, and is it is actually one of the least expensive types of bathtub materials. Unfortunately given that it is a conductor of heat, water cools quicker. Although this material is cheaper than cast iron, its more susceptible to chip easily. Steel bathtubs are still twice as heavy as acrylic or FRP tubs. Also, if the enamel coating becomes cracked, the underlying steel is prone to rusting.
Copper bathtubs are made of more malleable metal that are rust-proof, mold-resistant and eco-friendly. Although they retain heat fairly well and have a rather long shelf life, it requires much more maintenance than other materials and is sensitive to acids(some cleaning agents) and abrasive materials.
They are usually more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, given its distinctive texture and colour. Give this a try if you do not mind splurging a little more for that extravagant touch.
Bathtubs made of wood, when filled with hot water, releases an amazing natural aroma. Cedar wood is usually chosen, as it is significantly tougher than other kinds, complements well with water, and remains durable as when its dry.
A type of Wooden bathtub known as the Ofuro tub, is distinguished for the health benefits minerals in wood provide, implying the special care and consideration taken, when deciding the type of wood to be used as the ofuro’s bathtub material. Certain types of wood are more long-lasting when exposed to moisture, but selecting the ones with the wrong kind of wood may shorten the lifespan of the ofuro tub and render it useless in providing well-being benefits.
This material resembles that of stone (engineered natural stone) and is made by moulding minerals, polymeric materials and resins together. It resembles the solid-surface of countertops (eg; Corian), is finished with a gel-coat, and can preserve heat decently. This material is usually reasonable priced, and is stain-resistant and easy to clean. Although surface scratches can be buffed out, the material itself may prove to be brittle, and once the gel-coat wears off, cracks will then become unrepairable. Cast Polymer material options may include cultured marble, granite and onyx, however the culture marble is the more popular choice when it comes to bathtubs.
Cultured Marble provides for a more exquisite and refined touch, but its drawbacks include steep prices and high maintenance.
If you are just looking for a simple tub to soak after a long day, this is the one to consider. It is the most basic form of a bathtub and is generally one of the more cheaper options.
For a more elevated experience, the soaking tub’s deeper structure allows for a more in-depth soak and may be more comfortable for some people. This may cost slightly more than the standard tub.
Jacuzzi (Hot Tub)
A jacuzzi is the enhancement of a bathtub that provides the user a spa-like experience through the form of a hot bath hydrotherapy.
- Whirlpool Bathtubs
These bathtubs involve in-built water jets that are strategically placed to target the users’ muscles, such that it provides a massage experience to relieve body pains and inflammation in the joints.
- Air Bathtubs
Just like whirlpool tubs, air tubs have in-built jets to help ease body stiffness help the user relax. The only difference is that the jets propel air instead of water, which accounts for a more dispersed and soothing feeling preferred by some. Because of this reason, air tubs are pricier than whirlpool tubs.
- Combination Bathtubs
A combination tub allows you to mix-and-match accordingly to whatever the user requires. Be it a blend between whirlpool jet technology and air jet technology, or a tub-and-shower option.
After reading this guide, you should have a much clearer idea on which installation type is suitable for your bathroom, as well as which material and functions you want for your bathtub. Understanding the different types of bathtubs makes it much easier for you to discuss with your contractor and designers, as well as allow you to make confident, well-informed decisions.
Now that you have decided which type of bathtub that would best suit your needs and be optimal fit for your bathroom, we can then move on to the implications of installation and regulations to take note of.